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Scoliosis in Adults

What Is Adult Scoliosis?

Scoliosis is a condition in which the spine curves abnormally to the side rather than being straight. A rotation of the vertebrae and the rib cage, along with chronic pain, usually accompanies this unhealthy curve. In severe cases where the spine curves more than 60 degrees, patients may experience cardiac or respiratory problems. Scoliosis affects nearly 12 million adults worldwide and as many as 15 percent of the U.S. population older than age 60.

Types of scoliosis

The most common form of scoliosis is idiopathic scoliosis, a condition that begins in childhood has no known causes and is far more common in females than males. Progression of an idiopathic curve of the spine, whether in adolescence or adulthood, can lead to a need for treatment. Degenerative scoliosis develops in adulthood and is typically a result of conditions such as:

  • Arthritis
  • Osteoporosis
  • Having one leg longer than the other

At UPMC, adult scoliosis is often treated using an advanced, minimally invasive procedure known as XLIF®, or eXtreme lateral interbody fusion. In this procedure, neurosurgeons access the spine from the side of the body instead of from the front or back, as in traditional open procedures. Patients treated using this procedure often experience shorter operative times, shorter hospitalizations, and shorter recoveries, and similar success in pain relief when compared to traditional open surgeries for scoliosis.

Our neurosurgeons are continuously investigating and developing new treatment methods for scoliosis in adults to ensure our patients receive care that gives them the greatest opportunity to lead a normal, healthy lifestyle.